Posts Tagged ‘boys soccer’

Xavier Murdy, seen here in 2019, returned to the pitch Friday, scoring in a season-opening 3-0 win for Coupeville. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Just getting on the field was a win.

From a program seemingly dead in the water, to one which swept to a victory in front of its home fans, all in two weeks — welcome to the ever-evolving saga of Coupeville High School boys soccer.

Jump back to April 2, and the news was dark and depressing.

Unable to field a full roster, the Wolf booters were shut down before they could play their first game for new coach Robert Wood.

But fate held plenty of twists and turns, as a Covid outbreak forced Friday Harbor to cancel all fall sports … which eliminated boys tennis … which sent a handful of Wolf players to soccer.

Toss in a couple of 8th graders — allowed when a 2B school is struggling to field a full team — and Coupeville soccer was reborn.

Which brings us to Friday, opening night, a little later than first expected, but welcomed by all.

Unleashed on the pitch under a fairly-blazing sun, the Wolves rode the hot shooting touch of Aidan Wilson and Xavier Murdy to a 3-0 win over visiting Cedar Park Christian-Lynnwood.

Sitting at 1-0 in Northwest 2B/1B League play, with five games left in a pandemic-shortened season, Coupeville hits the road for its next two games, playing at Grace Academy and Mount Vernon Christian.

As he heads into the weekend, Wood, an easy-going soccer sage, was a man basking in the afterglow of victory, while realizing it is just a small piece of the puzzle.

“VERY happy with the play we showed today as a TEAM,” he said. “Wins are fine … losses are fine … but I’m watching how we PLAY, because wins/losses come and go, but the recovery from one to the other is what a TEAM and a season are about.”

Getting that first W against a private school from the heart of elite soccer was extra-nice, however.

“Tough opponent from off-Island in the middle of the Rush Select Soccer recruiting area, so the results tonight are wonderful, and a huge confidence booster for the team,” Wood said.

Coupeville struck first, and last, but didn’t make the scoreboard jump until late in the first half.

After 28 minutes of the two teams slugging it out, with neither able to break through the opposing team’s defense, the Wolves got a break when they were awarded a penalty kick.

Wilson, a standout distance runner who was making his CHS soccer debut after his freshman season was erased by the pandemic last spring, ambled to the ball, then struck like a coiled snake.

Punching the ball to the corner of the net, he made the CPC goalie look slow, and set off the first, but not last, celebration of the night.

Not content to stay with a single score, Wilson struck again five minutes later, slapping a back-breaker of a second goal to pad the lead.

With Coupeville’s defense playing rough ‘n ready, and goalie Logan Martin in lockdown mode behind them, CPC didn’t have a chance to play catch-up.

But, just to make sure, Murdy broke free late in the game, angling a ball past the diving goaltender to record his first goal of the season, and second of his prep career.

Like most coaches, Wood enjoyed the high points, while also seeing the areas he wants his players to improve.

“So very much we still need to work on,” he said with a chuckle. “But just being a team again is wonderful, and we wouldn’t be here without the desire of the kids to continue the sport.

“I support them in ANY sport they play, any, not just the beautiful game, but having a TEAM right now makes it so beautiful.”

The rebuilt roster boasts a lot of youth, with just two seniors in Owen Barenburg and Sam Wynn.

Toss in juniors Martin and Murdy, and 10 of the 14 Wolves are sophomores or younger.

Cameron Epp, Aidan Wilson, and Jesse Wooten rep the 10th grade class, with freshmen Cole White, Ryan Blouin, Nathan Ginnings, Nick Guay, and Andrew Williams joined by 8th graders Cael Wilson and Preston Epp.

“It’s an amazing rollercoaster of emotion,” Wood said. “Having to tell your players “we don’t have a team,” then recalling them five days later based on a rumor, then forming, storming, and norming, and winning our first competition against an unknown opponent.

“Very happy with the results, but I’m most happy about our team and the way we played together.

“What comes next? Time to study, practice the basics, work on our weaknesses, solidify and expand our strengths.”

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“Hello boys … I’m back!!” Like Randy Quaid in Independence Day, CHS soccer coach Robert Wood is here to save the day. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Don’t call it a comeback.

Well, OK, actually you can call it just that, I guess.

Playing out a plot familiar to vampire film fans, the Coupeville High School boys soccer program had a stake driven through its heart, only to rise again in a new, stronger form.

After the first week of practice, it became apparent the Wolves couldn’t field a full 11-man team.

That forced CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith to pull the plug, and he cancelled the boys pitch season April 2.

But then, plot twist.

With San Juan Island experiencing a spike in Covid cases, Friday Harbor High School went Smith one better, shutting down all of its fall sports programs.

That erased Coupeville’s only boys tennis foe, ending the Wolf hardcourt season before it began.

It also raised the possibility of CHS netters jumping to the pitch, and, with a revived push, new Wolf boys soccer head coach Robert Wood found enough bodies to field the necessary roster to play.

“Great team, great attitudes, great (weather) forecast (for the first game),” Wood said. “All kinds of great.”

Now on the comeback trail, Coupeville will open play at home this Friday, with a revamped six-game schedule during this pandemic-shortened campaign.

That equals the number of games the Wolf girls soccer squad is playing this season.


The new schedule:

Fri-April 16 — Cedar Park Christian (6:00)
Wed-April 21 — @ Grace Academy (3:30)
Tues-April 27 — @ Mount Vernon Christian (4:00)
Thur-April 29 — Providence Classical Christian (6:00)
Mon-May 3 — Orcas Island (4:00)
Wed-May 5 — @ La Conner (6:00)

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Robert Wood has seen his first season as CHS boys soccer coach end before it began. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Robert Wood’s first season as head coach of the Coupeville High School boys soccer program is ending way too early.

The original plan was for a 10-game schedule which would have launched with a home game April 7 against Friday Harbor.

Friday afternoon, however, the season was scrubbed as the Wolves were unable to come up with enough players to field a full roster.

The decision was not an easy one, said CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith, but it was one which had to be made.

Many factors combined to create the situation, with the ongoing pandemic proving to be a major issue.

“I believe, with the combination of us being unable to play last spring, with what would have been one of the strongest teams we ever had, lack of being able to build some momentum from that season, and the inability to talk with kids directly in person is what led to this,” Smith said.

Another factor is Coupeville’s move from the 1A classification, where boys soccer is played in the spring, to 2B, where it’s played as a fall sport.

During the spring, soccer competed against baseball and track for athletes.

In the fall, it runs into boys tennis, cross country, and football.

“Of course the additional competition of boys soccer moving from the spring season to fall also had an impact,” Smith said. “But this is something we knew was happening, but didn’t know we’d be dealing with Covid for an entire year.”

While the booters will sit out this season (with many moving to other sports), all involved plan to work to revive the program.

“I feel very bad for our kids who turned out this year, as well as for our new head coach, Rob Wood, who I was really excited about to see how he could build upon the success of Kyle Nelson’s tenure and continue to move us forward,” Smith said.

“He and I, together with our local youth soccer program, will be getting together to figure out a plan to get this program back up and running.”

For Wood, who was making the jump from CHS assistant coach to head coach after a decade of also working with youth soccer, it’s a dark day.

“It’s very demoralizing,” Wood said. “I’ve worked for ten years to get the Central Whidbey Soccer Club and Whidbey Island rec soccer to a point as a feeder system to CHS.

“Covid killed a lot of sport for the game since we never came together last year,” he added. “I feel bad for those seniors last year that lost their best chance, but now I’m afraid for the program.

“It’s going to be that much more difficult in August recruiting players.”

But the dream endures, even in rough times.

“I’ll be here, ready to coach,” Wood said. “Ready to praise the boys that lift up the first soccer banner in our gym.”

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Chayse Van Velkinburgh with dad Dustin. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Chayse shreds the defense. (Photo courtesy Dustin Van Velkinburgh)

“All in all, it was a good day.”

Chayse Van Velkinburgh, a 10-year-old Coupeville Elementary School student, continues to play above his age group on the soccer pitch.

Saturday, mask in place, he participated in two games, while repping the uniform of two different teams.

Van Velkinburgh opened the day by suiting up for the U12 NWU Black squad, starting at left back, where he helped trigger two of his team’s three goals in a loss.

The first score came off of a long ball played from the back, while on the second tally the young supernova dropped in a pinpoint quick throw to give a teammate an advantage on a backpedaling goaltender.

“The score won’t show it, but he played really well at that level,” said dad Dustin.

Game two brought Chayse back to his normal squad, U11 NWU Black, and he propelled them to an 8-3 victory.

The younger Van Velkinburgh scored twice in his nightcap, punching in a laser from 25 feet out for one score, before getting creative for another goal.

Smartly reading the opposing goaltender, he picked off a goal kick, then lit up the goalie.

A little dribble opened things up, before Van Velkinburgh slid the ball between the opposing player’s legs to set off a celebration.

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Uriel Liquidano sacrifices his head for the team. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

He was a new-school kid who played like an old-school athlete.

Uriel “Woody” Liquidano may have graduated in 2017, but his playing style would have made him a perfect fit back in the ’60s and ’70s.

Whether on the football field or the soccer pitch, the middle of three children (he followed big bro Oscar and preceded lil’ sis Estefanny) never left any doubt.

Uriel played hard, he played with passion, and he excelled as both an individual athlete and as a valuable link holding his team together.

Liquidano was joined by sister Estefanny, his parents, and one of his nieces on Senior Night.

The last time he walked off the Coupeville High School football field, I shook his hand and said something about how impressed I was with how he handled himself during his prep career.

Today, on his birthday, we’re following that up with something which should have happened a long time ago – we’re inducting him into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, where he will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Oscar.

After this, you’ll find the brothers up at the top of the blog, living large under the Legends tab.

And why not?

Uriel played like a legend, while rarely being one to beat his own chest and scream about his greatness.

Instead, he yanked his helmet down on his head, locked eyes with opposing quarterbacks, then relentlessly chased them down, usually finishing plays having wrecked anyone foolish enough to get in his way.

Plop him on the soccer pitch as well, or the basketball court during his earlier days, and Uriel was just as much of a rampaging force of nature.

Pick a sport, and he was an enforcer.

On the gridiron, Uriel was a two-way starter, anchoring the offensive line, while rumbling on defense as a linebacker.

A team captain along with fellow Hall o’ Famers Clay Reilly and Jacob Martin, he led by example, busting his tail and delivering big plays.

Of all of his games in red and black, Uriel’s biggest probably came during his senior year, when he led a fired-up Wolves squad to a 41-10 thrashing of arch-rival South Whidbey as Coupeville retained possession of The Bucket.

As I wrote in the game story that night:

Senior Uriel Liquidano was a beast unleashed, spending most of his night gently cradling frightened Falcons as he slammed them to the turf after shedding would-be blockers.


That smash-mouth playing style carried over to the soccer pitch, where he operated primarily as a defender for the Wolves.

Bust through Coupeville’s front line and Uriel was waiting to use and abuse you, sailing into battle with a huge smile on his face and his elbows set to “Crush Mode.”

An honor student off the field, and a guy who gave you everything he had from opening whistle to final whistle, he remains one of my favorite athletes to cover from the Coupeville Sports days.

So happy cake day, Uriel, best wishes for the future, and appreciation for the past.

You are the real deal, sir. Always have been, always will be.

Liquidano, Jacob Martin (32), and Clay Reilly (2) went out as champs, thrashing South Whidbey 41-10 as seniors.

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